Blind Item

Would you like a touch of sugar with that, Your Honor?

Federal judges are… fruity! I once visited Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in chambers, where I witnessed the judge engage in a spirited argument with one of his law clerks over the proper way to peel and eat an orange. Everything is up for debate in the Kozinski chambers.

And it seems like Judge Kozinski isn’t the only judicial giant with a fruit fetish. In oral arguments yesterday for Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, concerning whether Amazon warehouse workers can get paid overtime for going through an end-of-day security screening, Justice Elena Kagan raised this fun scenario: if a federal judge orders his clerks to come into chambers early, to cut up his grapefruit and make the rest of his breakfast, should the clerks get paid for that?

As it turns out, this “hypothetical” is based on real life. Which federal judge actually does this?

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This is my first column of 2014, so I’m due to join the ranks of those who make predictions for the coming year.

But my predictions will be slightly different from others, because mine will be based on fact.

In the last months of 2013, I heard that two different law firms had reduced partners’ draws to offset the firms’ poor financial performance. At least one of the firms reduced draws retroactively — announcing near the end of the year that partners’ salaries would be reduced as of January 1, 2013 (which slices partners’ incomes dramatically in the last few months of the year). Both firms shared the pain among all partners — folks suffered in the equity and non-equity ranks alike. (This is a particularly nasty trick to play on income partners: “Here’s your partnership deal: If the firm does better than expected, you’re a mere income partner; of course you will not share the wealth. On the other hand, if the firm performs worse than expected, we’ll permit you to share the pain, and we’ll cut your pay. Here’s the partnership agreement! Sign right here on the dotted line!”)

I’ve now been in-house for four years, and my ear has lifted pretty far from the law-firm ground: If I heard about two law firms suffering from such terribly bad years that they were forced to reduce their budgets as year-end approached, then I’m guessing that many more than two firms suffered this fate. This means that, for many firms, 2013 was not a good year, which leads me to my predictions for 2014 . . . .

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I took the train to Paris recently. (Sorry — I can’t help myself. I just love typing those words.)

That gave me an uninterrupted two hours to edit a document on the way to Paris and another uninterrupted two hours to edit a document on the way home.

The experiences couldn’t have been more different.

What’s odd is that it wasn’t the quality of the drafts that made the experiences different for me (the editor), but rather the quality of the reactions that I anticipated receiving from the authors.

How can that be? How can an editor enjoy revising one document and loathe revising another based solely on the anticipated responses to the edits? And what lessons might that teach the author (the person being edited)?

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‘I HATE SUMMER ASSOCIATES!’

There’s just something about riding on crowded Amtrak trains that causes Biglaw attorneys to lose all of their inhibitions. From fondling one another to making $300,000 partnership offers to casually discussing future layoffs, their indiscretion knows no bounds. Perhaps they choose to throw caution to the wind because they think no one cares about the business of law, or that no one is really listening to what they’re saying or watching what they’re doing, but that’s simply not the case. We’ve got eyes and ears everywhere, and no one is safe.

Today’s Biglaw blind item occurred on yet another Amtrak train, and deals with some longstanding archetypes: an attorney who “sounded like a real jerk” and a law student who “sounded desperate.” It seems like this attorney has hate in his heart for his firm’s summer associates…

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We have previously asked our readership: Dewey Know Who’s Next? Do we know of any major law firms that might be following the bankrupt Dewey & LeBoeuf into the dustbin of history?

How about: a firm that’s having problems paying its partners? That brings us to today’s Biglaw blind item….

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Sneaking…

Recently, I was talking to the managing partner of a top, global law firm about our new Career Center, and mentioned that Above the Law readers would be filling out surveys to rate their firms. I mistakenly gave him the impression that somehow the firm would have to be involved in distributing and collecting the surveys (they are not). When he thought that I was asking him for that, his eyes turned a demon shade of red, his hair stood on end, and he bellowed, “Not another survey,” as the earth quaked.

I might be exaggerating slightly, but you get the point. Law firms are inundated with surveys to fill out. Am Law this, Vault that. Super Duper Lawyers of Jurisprudential Awesomeness. Most of the information we have about law firms come from self-reported sources.

Of course, law school deans have taught us a thing or two about relying on self-reported data. Some of the rules can be bent, others broken. Considering the fact that the American Bar Association can’t even make sure that its member institutions tell it the truth, you can best believe that some Biglaw firms have become very skilled at massaging the surveys that they do get.

They don’t lie, but firms can be very tricksy….

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If you want to show off guns to your summer associates, just take them to a firing range.

Our latest summer associate story — involving a gun, too much wine, the managing partner’s boyfriend, and the summer associate who slapped him — is turning into the Biglaw version of Rashomon. We’ve heard so many different versions of the tale, from so many different perspectives.

Was the managing partner’s boyfriend a lowly transit cop or an NYPD detective? Did he brandish his firearm, or did it “come out in a joking manner”? How inappropriately did the summer associate in question act? How drunk was everyone at this wine tasting event?

If you’ve had enough of this tale, you can stop reading here. But if you’re willing to hear one more account of the proceedings, keep reading….

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Hands off the managing partner, please.

This morning we told you about an incident in which the boyfriend of a managing partner allegedly pulled a gun on a summer associate. The claim was that the summer associate had touched the managing partner’s arm. A managing partner of a major law firm is a pretty important person, but applying a “do not touch” rule to her, as if she were the Queen of England, might be taking things a bit far.

We stated in our post that there had to be another side to this story — and we were right. In the alternative version, the gun in question was not actually pointed at the summer associate. And the summer associate was not exactly a saint — which might be the real reason he got no-offered by the firm.

Let’s find out what he allegedly did, as well as the identity of the law firm in question….

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This could be the last thing you see before you get no offered.

Haven’t we all been there? You’re a summer associate at a law firm event. You see the managing partner. You down your drink and work up the courage to introduce yourself to her, determined to make a good impression. You’re trying to get her attention, and maybe you brush up against her arm. And the next thing you know, her boyfriend is pointing a gun in your face.

Oh wait, that never happens to anybody. At least, it’s not supposed to. But according to one source, it did happen to a summer associate at an IP boutique around town.

And, you’re not going to believe this, but the kid apparently did not get an offer from the firm…

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Earlier this week, we wrote about the lavish payments that Dewey & LeBoeuf made to its former executive director, Stephen DiCarmine, and its former chief financial officer, Joel Sanders, in the year leading up to the firm’s bankruptcy filing. Each man received almost $3 million in salary, bonuses, and expense reimbursement. (There’s additional detail and number crunching over at The Lawyer.)

Today we bring you additional interesting information from — and speculation about — the Dewey bankruptcy filings. For starters, who are the two Dewey partners who received more than $6 million each in the year leading up to the Chapter 11 petition?

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(Plus additional tidbits about Dewey partner compensation.)

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